A very frequently asked question is “How long does it take to make compost?” The answer to this question begins with “Well, it depends…” Many factors make it difficult to predict composting times. The time it takes to decompose materials can be as long as a year or more. Or, as many composter manufacturers claim…it can be as little as 30 days!
Let’s explore how quickly (or how long) it takes to make compost.
Under ideal conditions, you can indeed make finished compost in as little as 30 days. This means:
The raw material is shredded into fine pieces, or is already fine (like grass)
There is a healthy mixture of Nitrogen and Carbon Materials, 60-80% Nitrogen.
The air temperature is warm
There is good air circulation. Compost tumblers are perfect for this.
The materials are turned and mixed frequently, if not daily. Again, compost tumblers aid in this process step.
There are sufficient micro-organisms in the material. To accomplish this, you may need to add micro-organisms when you begin a new batch.
The material is kept moist.
A passive, inactive pile can sit there on the ground for a long, long time. Pile up a bunch of dead, dried-out leaves, or add big, thick pieces of material, like dried-up corn or sunflower stalks. It will decompose, ever so slowly. Nature will perform the task…eventually. If you are not in a hurry for finished compost or do not have a lot of time to tend to the pile, a passive pile may be just fine.
Chances are your finished compost will take somewhere between the two extremes above. Most of us do not have the time to do all the things necessary to decompose materials in just 30 days. Seldom, do we have all of the materials finely shredded. Turning the pile regularly is time-consuming., too. And, frequently, the other conditions needed for speedy decomposition, are less than ideal.
If you want to speed up your composting project, anything you can do that emulates making compost in 30 days, will speed up decomposition. Simply start with the things that are quick and easy to do.